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How to Declutter Cookbooks (Cookbook Challenge)

Time for a progress update on my Great Cookbook Challenge. I set myself the challenge to cook 3 things from each of the cookbooks by the end of the year. Any unused cookbooks will be donated to charity.

I cleared off my cookbook shelf in the kitchen (which only stored a few of my 54 cookbooks), with books only going back on the shelf when they’d been used. Here’s what my shelf is looking like after 4 months:

Declutter your cookbooks (3)

It’s not quite as good as it looks! The books on the left are the ones that have successfully passed the challenge (3 recipes cooked). The ones on the right, I’ve cooked 1 or 2 recipes from – so they are in progress, and good contenders to move across. Thermomix cookbooks have definitely been the winner on this  challenge – not surprising given my love of my latest kitchen toy!

Here are some of the strategies I’ve used to work through my books:

How to Declutter Cookbooks

1. Flick through each cookbook and write a list of the recipes to try. I wrote a list on a piece of paper, with the paper filed in a binder on my cookbook shelf. I put a tick next to a recipe I’ve tried and liked.

Declutter your cookbooks (1)

2. Donate or sell. If you can only find a few recipes in a book that you’ll actually cook, or you have most of the recipes in other, better books, it’s time to let them go. Copy the recipes you like, and then donate or sell the books. Here’s the pile so far that didn’t make the grade:

Declutter your cookbooks (4)

3. Menu Plan! This is one area of organisation that I’ve never really succeeded in. I menu plan for a week or two, then fall off the wagon. If I’m going to make it through this challenge, I need to be on the ball with this one. I pick a couple of cookbooks that I want to work through, pick 3 recipes and add them to  the calendar, usually over a 2-3 week period. Too many new recipes makes me tired and less likely to follow the plan!

4. Some books are worth more than just the recipes. I’ve added one book to the collection since I started this challenge – a signed copy of Degustation by Alain Fabregues. We had the most amazing meal at the author’s restaurant for our 10th wedding anniversary, and my husband bought me the book there. I also have a signed copy of a book from our favourite restaurant in Brisbane, reminding me of the great times we had living there. Although the recipes in both books are too involved for me to cook from at the moment, they provide lots of memories. So they are staying on my shelf (with dreams that one day I’ll be able to cook like those chefs!).

Declutter your cookbooks (2)

5. Avoid more clutter – borrow from the library. If you’re like me and love “reading” cookbooks but only ever cook a few recipes, borrow them from your local library. Get your “food porn” fix, copy a recipe or two (within copyright laws) and return it. Or try before you buy, if it’s a real winner.

Some people have discarded their cookbooks in favour of Google and the internet. I can’t quite bring myself to do this – I love flicking through my cookbooks searching for the right recipe for a dinner party. It’s more fun for me when I’m not sure exactly what I want to cook and the recipes from a trusted book are more reliable (not that I don’t go to the computer too…).

Have you joined in the Great Cookbook Challenge? How much progress have you made?


  1. This is such a great idea!! I am going to go through my cookbooks tomorrow and choose recipes to try, I’ve been thinking the last few weeks that I have too many cookbooks. Thank you for a great post!

  2. I’m lucky that I don’t have a cookbook collection otherwise I’d really be in trouble. My husband and I are both academics and love reading so we have tonnes of books but I probably only have a handful of cookbooks and I use them quite often. I find it really difficult to part with books that have been inscribed, even if I didn’t enjoy them terribly 🙂

  3. I have a HUGE collection of cookbook and each time i try to decide to reduce the amout of book…i fail because i love them to much, i always find something great i would like to cook in each book. I decided to copy the recipes when i just find 3 or 4 interesting things in a cookbook (we both having the same great idea!)…but i never thing about put all my book in another “location” and put it back only if i use them…ehat a great idea!!!

    Thank you…oh…and sorry for my english, probably a lot of mistakes in my comment!

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